A Revolution for At Risk Teens – Never Counted Out

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e. E. Charlton-Trujillo is a visionary filmmaker, writer and revolutionary. She has dedicated herself to reaching out to teens and making sure that they are both seen and heard. Her latest effort is both an organization and a film that are truly essential to teens. Her organization is called Never Counted Out and here is the description of their mission from their website: Never Counted Out

Never Counted Out is a movement in the making dedicated to empowering at-risk youth through writing and the arts.

We believe art saves, and youth on the fringe are forever changed by engaging with professional artists.

Inspired by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo’s unconventional Fat Angie book tour (documented in the film At-Risk Summer), NCO continues her mission by bridging the gap between artists and at-risk youth in their community or communities they travel to.
We are emerging —with a fire—to inspire the kids who are often counted out!

Here is an artist and educator who realizes that acknowledging teens as full participants in our world. She sees how essential it is for teens to participate in the arts and in crafting their own stories. These are teens whose stories are glossed over by parents, community members, teachers and many other adults who overlook them or write them off as not fully formed people every day.

Her passion led her to a radical project. She packed up her life into storage and hit the road to speak to “At Risk Youth” across the nation at no cost to their schools or programs, and she filmed the whole process without knowing what would happen along the way. The trip took a personal toll physically and emotionally on her. The impact of the trip on her and the students that she workshopped with was amazing and truly visible in the film.

letter from young person from movie

The reactions of the students in the film are amazing. They’re confronted with an unassuming, casual, relatable adult who is also a published author. Her approach is to focus on the students and their stories. She tells them that we need to hear their stories and that they need to tell them. “Writing is freedom,” is her simple and powerful message. Many young adult writers are interviewed in the film and their message that teens matter is vital as well. The real stars are the teens who take the risk to be vulnerable and tell their stories. Watch the trailer here:

Acknowledging teens as full people with stories to tell is an act of revolution. Teens are not a separate species, but are people whose stories have been ignored for too long in favor of education, social and law enforcement systems which simply want them to be compliant and quiet. Instead, e.E. Charlton-Trujillo has asked these students to tell their stories because they matter to her. Because she’s not a teacher or a parent or a social worker or anyone else who “has” to tell teenagers that they need to get their acts together and start doing the right things, the teens respond to her in amazing ways. They trust her and her straightforward approach. She’s not selling a book or an easy path to success. She just wants to hear from them and wants them to share and craft their stories on their own terms.

The film has been screened at festivals and at the National Council of Teachers of English conference in Minneapolis last year, but it needs to be seen by more people. It’s a powerful story of what can happen when you invite teens to take power over their own stories through art. “Art saves,” she tells them, and then through their writing and sharing of their stories and struggles, they prove her right.

The Never Counted Out website offers many ways for you to get involved in e.E. Charlton-Trujillo’s efforts to help at-risk teens. You can donate books to be given to schools that need them, artists can contact them to donate an hour of their time to workshop with at risk youth in their area, educators can request to become a Never Counted Out program to have an artist partner with their school, and you can book a screening of the film as well.

The film needs to be seen by as many people as possible. It’s a critical message for all teens and people who work with them. There is hope in art and in telling your story.
For teens, Never Counted Out is publishing a book of writing and art inspired by the prompt, “If someone only knew…” The submissions from teens 13-18 will be considered for publication on the website and in an anthology to be published in 2017.
If Someone Only Knew – Guidelines and Submissions

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From the website:

“Kids, we’ve got a creative revolution brewing here at Never Counted Out. This is your space to have a voice, be heard and show the world who you are.
This organization is here because of you and for you. The way you can be involved at this moment is to visit the If Someone Only Knew tab. Submit your essays, photography, graphic mini-novel and drawings. Your truth through art is the creative revolution.”

Join the revolution.

Comment below with your stories, ideas, and reactions to the trailer.

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